Avoiding Food Culture Appropriation
Consumers nowadays, especially millennials, are expanding their tastes to encompass more global flavours and international ingredients. They are looking for more gastronomic experiences to bring more fun and a variety of flavours to their mealtimes. From the cook’s perspective, new ingredients and cooking techniques are constantly being adopted to incorporate a variety of cuisines.
Overall, there is a more welcoming mentality towards world cuisines originating from different cultures – from having been seen as exotic foods to now being a natural part of our day to day enjoyment of food. Food manufacturers are supplying supermarket shelves with numerous new food products to keep us satisfied.
However, with all the cross-cultural exchanges, we need to be wary of food culture appropriation. It can be as subtle as referring to poke bowls, which is originally a Native Hawaiian cuisine, as sushi bowls or by applying incorrect labels to food – for example, claiming any food products with chili, basil, and peanut as Thai cuisine.
From the manufacturers’ perspective, the lack of proper understanding of the genuine cuisine or too much creative adaptation or fancy naming may skew towards cultural appropriation. For instance, in the case of Asian food products, the product names in Asian languages are sometimes translated phonetically, which does not explain the specific purpose and usage of the product to the consumers.
This limited information may prevent consumers from appreciating world cuisines in the best way possible.
Why is this interesting?
As world cuisine becomes increasingly more popular, there is great potential for manufacturers to introduce new food products to the market. The key thing to remember when introducing foreign food products is to pay attention to the origin of the product and its ‘proper’ usages, and also more importantly, to educate consumers about it so that they are able to appreciate such cuisines authentically.
Manufacturer’s marketing campaigns, or even recipes that use commonly available local ingredients, all help spread the word. Interestingly, sometimes, even subcultures work as a surprising cultural ambassador for world cuisines. For instance, anime fans may become aware and sometimes obsessed with Japanese food because their favourite characters love certain dishes.
ADK Insights continuously monitors trends in the food industry and translates its impact on consumer behaviours, providing insights to help businesses future-proof their innovation. To know more about our experience and see what it could mean for your business, please contact Rob.